Many of the country’s newspapers were pulled back from the brink with today’s announcement that federal wage subsidies will be extended to all businesses regardless of size.
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon had on Friday issued an urgent appeal to Ottawa to provide immediate financial aid to the news industry. He asked that publishers be eligible for the same measures offered to small- and medium-size businesses.
“This is a huge announcement which, combined with government ad buys, should ease the crisis for news companies and provide financial stability for workers,” O’Hanlon said today.
“We thank the government for listening and we urge all companies that have laid off workers or cut hours to restore full operations. At a time like this, it is vital that we have more news coverage, not less.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his daily briefing this morning that any company, including non-profits, whose revenues were down by at least 30 per cent would qualify for the 75-per-cent wage subsidy. This would be paid on the first $58,700 of salary, up to $847 a week, and would be backdated to March 15. He urged companies to make up the other 25 per cent.
The measure is intended to prevent layoffs, which have already happened at newspaper companies in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and to encourage the recall of those who have been laid off due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We are stepping up to help all employers,” said Trudeau. But he cautioned that “every dollar should go to workers” and, for businesses that take advantage of the program, there would be “serious consequences. We trust you to do the right thing.”
In issuing the appeal for financial aid on Friday, O’Hanlon said it was “vital that this money begin to flow in a matter of days, not weeks or months. It is not hyperbole to state that the survival of some companies hangs in the balance. Ad revenue has plummeted more than two thirds and newspaper publishers in Quebec and Atlantic Canada have laid off hundreds of workers and cut wages and hours for others. More publishers across the country will undoubtedly follow suit very soon without help.”